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A letter from Luta and Jeremy Garbat-Welch serving in Malawi
June 2015 - Transformation Through CHE
The Community Health Evangelism (CHE) program in Zambia has struggled in its implementation due to several challenges. The biggest challenge it faces is the model of dependency perpetuated by many non-government organizations (NGOs) within the local community context. As an example, it is common for NGOs to provide trainings for a community, covering the cost of transport to and from the venue, cost of lodging, and cost of food while also providing a daily stipend for attending the training. That’s a lot of incentive. This has created an expectation—individuals must be paid to attend trainings. It is such an expectation that many individuals believe that attending trainings is “part of my job.” I (Luta) have heard over and over from church leaders that this expectation has increased the difficulty of the work of the church, because now people expect the church to deliver these goods as well! Individuals become involved in trainings or programs in order to “get something” from the agency or church for themselves rather than as an opportunity to give to their own communities.Continue reading
A letter from Kate Taber serving in Israel-Palestine
July 2015 - Words of hope
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead… (1 Peter 1:3).
In late April, 11 Presbyterians from all over the United States visited the Holy Land on a trip sponsored by World Mission. The goal of the trip was to visit mission partners of the PC(USA) in Israel-Palestine and learn about the context in which they live. In this land, where no forebears of the PC(USA) came to set up any institutions, our partners are varied. We prioritize relationships with the indigenous Christians, and in particular the Protestants like the Palestinian Lutheran and Anglican churches. Beyond that, we seek relationship with people or groups whose active work is in line with our denomination's stances and values and whose work can be a resource to ours. Thus we also connect with Israelis and Palestinians of all and no faith backgrounds who are working in various ways for a just peace, against poverty, for human rights, etc.Continue reading
A letter from Mark Hare in the U.S. on Interpretation Assignment from Haiti/Dominican Republic
June 2015 - A Storm of Change
It has been quite a ride these last six months, but by the grace of God, Jenny, Keila and Annika and I seem to have made it safely through a storm of change, leaving Haiti and the Dominican Republic and coming at last to a place of relative calm here in Amesville, Ohio, where we will be based for the next 12 months.
Jenny and I have been mission co-workers serving together on the island of Hispaniola for the last three and a half years. The main focus of my work has been in Haiti, serving with MPP (the Peasant Movement of Papaye), working with the MPP-FONDAMA Yard Garden Program. Jenny has been serving with the IED (the Dominican Evangelical Church), working with the Good Samaritan Clinic in Batey 7, a community of descendants of workers brought from Haiti to cut sugarcane. Jenny and my current term (Jenny’s first and my sixth or seventh) was programmed to end in December 2014, but PC(USA) World Mission approved an extension, in theory to bring our respective work to some type of closure before coming to the States for a year. Apparently the Holy Spirit had other ideas.Continue reading
A letter from Carlos Cardenas Martinez in Nicaragua
June 2015 - HOPEFUL LEADERSHIP BUILDING IN COMMUNITY RESILIENCE
Proverbs 3:9: Honor your Lord with your wealth and with the first fruits of your crops.
Dear brothers and sisters:
My warm greetings to all of you from Nicaragua. This newsletter is full of hope and recent impressions shared with local leaders working in rural communities hand-in-hand with CEPAD.
For approximately 15 years I did not visit those remote regions of the country that were the theatre of bloody operations of a fratricidal war that drained the country for many years. This time I want to speak about Pantasma, the north area of Nicaragua, and its people in Jinotega.
Recently our Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA) ministry of the Presbyterian Mission Agency (PMA) was a part of a joint journey with our partner, the Nicaraguan Council of Evangelical Churches (CEPAD) to celebrate the World Day of the Earth and the National Ag Day for professionals in the agricultural sciences. I didn´t hesitate an instant and accepted the invitation since it was the only opportunity to check what had happened there in terms of changes and transformation after the war and to share with a fist of small evangelical congregations and the local Catholic community this solemn celebration.Continue reading
A letter from Josh Heikkila serving as Regional Liaison for West Africa, based in Ghana
June 2015 - A Joyful Faith
Before moving to West Africa, when I was still working at a church in St. Paul, Minnesota, I got to know some members of the Togolese immigrant community living in the Twin Cities. They were a wonderful group of people, so when I came to Ghana in the fall of 2009 I looked forward to learning about the church in neighboring Togo. It has not been a disappointment! Of all the things I do in West Africa, I think working with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Togo (known by its French acronym EEPT) gives me the greatest joy.
The Togolese partner church is full of incredible music. During worship, when people join together to sing and dance and the drums and other traditional instruments are played, it’s as if the congregation becomes one living and breathing organism, praising God in unity. Once last year, at a congregation in the capital city of Lome, as people were singing and dancing together to the beat I had this palpable sense of what it means to be the Body of Christ. We were all individual human beings, with different lives and differing spiritual gifts, but the song brought us together and somehow expressed what it is to be one in Jesus Christ. That time in worship renewed my spirit.Continue reading
A letter from Sandi Thompson-Royer serving in Guatemala
June 2015 - We Are Better Together
Nosotros Estamos Mejor Juntos
The sun pours into our kitchen window as I prepare my first cup of Guatemalan coffee. Looking out the window onto the rooftop across the way, I see magenta bougainvillea and other brilliant purple flowers gracing our neighborhood. There is always a scrawny but friendly yellow cat that hangs around for any scraps we might have. I see the herbs and flowers Brian has planted on the ledge in big pots because he can’t keep his hands out of the dirt. Beyond this close view are mountains. Quetzaltenango, where we live, is at 8,000 feet. On the other side of our apartment and the view outside our living room window is the volcano Santa Maria. How blessed we are to see such beauty. This is what I chose to see. Others might choose to see the same view differently. The streets are dirty. Dogs and teen boys lie on the streets too tired or drunk to care. Across the street from us is Funerales Quetzaltenango. Almost daily we experience death right in front of us. People are coming here to say goodbye to their loved ones. Bodies are buried quickly and we see the procession of people walking down the street, stopping traffic, to the cemetery close by where the body will be buried. We hear wails of sadness and grief. Until recently there was a bar directly across the street where we saw the sadness of alcohol, heard loud obnoxious music, and often fights after too much to drink. We choose to see the beauty and hope that also surrounds us. Life is hard in Guatemala.Continue reading
A letter from Kay Day serving in Rwanda
July 2015 - Mutual Learning
Dear Friends and Family,
Greetings from Rwanda. As you celebrate Independence Day in America, it just so happens that we are doing the same in Rwanda. Independence Day here is July 1, but the circumstances here are quite different. For Rwanda, it is an opportunity to celebrate independence from genocide, the end of the killing.
Although that was 21 years ago, there are reminders everywhere of the horror, on the face of the land and on the faces of the people. One of those faces is a colleague of mine. Pastor Thadde is just a bit younger than I am. He bears a deep scar from his right temple to his chin, another veering from that one across his chin and yet another on his forehead, from his graying hairline to his left eyebrow. Amazingly, what I notice first when I see his face is not the scarring, but his gentle smile and compassionate eyes. He is a grace-filled man. When I finally gathered the courage to ask him about the scars, he said he would tell me the story when his English was good enough for him to do so in English.Continue reading
A letter from Nancy McGaughey serving in South Sudan
June 2015 - On the Road Again
“When you are in America, and you close your eyes, you will see this. You will smile, you will remember us, and you will miss South Sudan.”—Emmanuel, IMA driver
On the road, in the boat, in helicopter, in the plane, by foot … the last several weeks I have been ‘on the road’ a lot! I have been to Bor, Mingkaman, Panyagor, Poktop, Jiech, Akobo and Denjok, with many stops along the way.
First, and by far the most memorable, was a road trip to Bor, the capital of Jonglei State. Getting to Bor was easy, the road was dry, fairly smooth, and even though we didn’t leave until afternoon, we were there by 6 pm. The next morning I took a boat ride across the Nile to visit the reproductive health clinic at the settlement for displaced people in Mingkaman. It was a great day to visit as they had conducted seven deliveries in the last 24 hours. The postpartum section of the tent was overflowing—and the midwives were very tired.Continue reading
A letter from Barry and Shelly Dawson, Regional Liaisons for Southeast Asia, on Interpreaton Assignment in the U.S.
June 2015 - Interpretation Assignment
Our Christian sisters and brothers throughout Southeast Asia continue to inspire us with their deep faith and uncompromising resolve to live boldly for Christ each day. Sharing their stories of unwavering commitment and boundless courage is one of our greatest joys, and as we travel throughout the United Sates over the course of the next two and a half months (until September 21) we will have many opportunities to share poignant stories of how God’s Spirit is at work transforming lives, building communities, and developing global mission partnerships.
Thysan was a young man who survived the hellish nightmare of the genocide that claimed the lives of more than 20 percent of Cambodia’s population in the late 1970s. While spending a few years in a refugee camp he declared his faith in Jesus Christ. After emigrating to the U.S.A. Thysan completed two theology degrees and was ordained as a pastor. But he has never forgotten the critical needs of those who live in his native Cambodia. In fact, in partnership with Eliot Presbyterian Church of Lowell, Massachusetts, he founded the “Life Project for Rural Cambodians,” a mission initiative that seeks to bring medical care, school supplies, and clean water to communities throughout the country of his birth. In 2013 and 2014 we journeyed with Thysan’s mission teams in Cambodia, where we witnessed the joy and the hope his “Life Project” brings to rural communities. Thysan’s story is unique, but it points us to the power of church mission partnerships and the amazing grace of God’s transforming love.Continue reading
A letter from Rochelle and Tyler Holm on Interpretation Assignment in the U.S., returning to Malawi
Summer 2015 - Looking at Sanitation Access
For many of you, welcome to our quarterly newsletters! We have been encouraged and blessed in the past few months by many people around the country while we have been speaking and raising awareness about our work. We have done a combination of everything from large formal to small groups, churches, front page of the newspaper, radio show, meeting with a community college president, and lots more! Many are new faces we have met for the first time, with others we are deepening old friendships and partnerships. We have also been able to introduce Mphatso to family for the first time, as well as introduce her to “everything” America. Let’s just say Mphatso is a fan of both ice cream and cheese…
But our busy speaking schedule has been demanding, and we are looking forward to resuming our normal routines and getting back to our work at both Mzuzu University for Rochelle and the University of Livingstonia for Tyler. We leave the States for Malawi in the middle of July and are especially excited to be rejoining our worshiping community in Mzuzu with the Church of Central African Presbyterian (CCAP).Continue reading
A letter from Leslie Vogel serving in Guatemala
June 2015 - Voices from the Border and Beyond
Husband: "I have wonderful news! You know that I've been unemployed for six months now. My family is loaning me the money so I can travel to the U.S. and find work there. I want you to come with me. My mother can take care of our son. Come with me! Together we'll find work and then send for him!
Wife: "No, I don't agree with this plan. We can't abandon our child. I can't abandon our child. I won't go with you and I don't like the idea of you going. Please stay. With God's help, we will find a way."
Husband: "NO. I've made up my mind and I'm going."
Three-year-old son, Gonzalo, crying and clinging to his father: "No Papi! Don't go! Please don't go!
The six Guatemalan women before us are enacting a drama they have created to tell a migration story. One of the women plays the part of the husband and father.
As the performance continues, the father calls from the U.S. on Gonzalo's sixth birthday, again urging Gonzalo's mother, "Juana," to go and join him. "My mother can care for Gonzalo. We can send for him once we are more settled," he insists. When she again refuses, he threatens: "If you're not going to come and join me here, then you can forget about us!"Continue reading
A letter from Justin Sundberg serving in Nicaragua
June 2015 - a preposition you can't refuse.
here . . . gets eaten
by moths and corroded by rust—worse!—
stolen by burglars!
Kennedy and 24 others from her Morgantown, W.Va., church and I just finished a week together. She captured the essence of the trip at the very beginning of her visit. In describing her overnight with a Nicaraguan family, she shared with sober clarity: "[Their house] wasn't 5-star, but [my hosts] were happy. And I know that when I get back I have a long Amazon order to make and none of that stuff will make me happy."
At 20 years old, Kennedy had discovered the life-changing truth that though we need some of the material stuff in our lives, it doesn't fill us up, bring us joy, nor does it move us outward to love and serve others.Continue reading
A letter from Judy Chan serving in Hong Kong
june 2015 - O land, land!
Over the past 10 years I have worked with the Hong Kong Christians for Eco-concerns network to produce materials for Environment Sunday, the first Sunday of June. This year we decided to do something different. Instead of one of the group members doing the writing, we invited a lay church leader to pen the sermon. Elder Dr. Wong Fook-yee is a retired civil servant formerly in charge of Hong Kong’s country and marine parks. You may be thinking, Hong Kong has country and marine parks? Isn’t the city just one big urban jungle? That’s what you usually see in the media, but surprisingly around 75 percent of Hong Kong’s 400 sq. miles is countryside. Forty percent has been preserved as country parks and marine parks. So when Dr. Wong accepted our invitation, we should not have been surprised at his chosen topic—land. He reminded us that 2015 is the U.N. International Year of Soils. And in his sermon he pointed out, “The fate of humans is closely related to the land. When humans sin, the land is also affected. All creatures were beyond the void, together they were groaning (Romans 8:20-22). Therefore, God, humans, and land are interrelated, interdependent and interconnected.”Continue reading
A letter from Jonathan and Emily Seitz serving in Taiwan
june 2015 - graduation day 2015
Rev. Juan, our campus minister, recently shared that 89 percent of our graduates at Taiwan Theological College and Seminary are still in ministry 10 years after graduation. The 11 percent not serving directly in a church includes those who are on a break to care for children or parents or who are finishing other degree programs. When I share this number with U.S. church leaders, they’re always amazed, since in the U.S. a large number of seminary students never intend to enter the ministry and many leave during their challenging first years of ministry. The faithfulness of our graduates astounds me. I often tell our students that I would be happy to have almost any of them as my pastor, and I really mean it. Indeed, a joy 10 years after first coming to Taiwan is that sometimes it is a former student who serves me communion, preaches during worship, or teaches on campus. Overwhelmingly the students we send out into the world are kind, bright, faithful people who love God and love the church.
A letter from Kurt Esslinger serving in South Korea
june 2015 - yavs meet peacemakers
Hello, friends across the world. We bring you greetings of shalom in the name of Jesus the Prince of Peace. Summer has arrived in Korea, and the humidity is beginning to take hold. Every now and then an actual rain shower comes through to cool it off a bit and release the blanket. One of those hot days our family took a stroll in the heat along with a couple of hundred other people up near the border with the North. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Our U.S. Young Adult Volunteers (YAVs) are now reaching the end of their year here in Korea. We have already had our Discernment Event, when we placed the YAVs who will come live with us next year in their stead (there will be five YAVs in Korea next year, by the way). We are also getting ready to send another four Korean students to be Exchange YAVs in the U.S. next year. Meanwhile Jordan and Kalyn—the current YAVs—are trying to figure out how to wrap up their year, and they are beginning reflections on what their year has meant to them.Continue reading
A letter from Doug Tilton serving as regional liaison for Southern Africa, based in South Africa
june 2015 - decision-making
I am sure that many of you will be familiar with an African proverb that has become much-quoted in recent years, particularly in church circles: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone; if you want to walk far, walk together.” This aphorism captures with simple elegance the crux of World Mission’s missiology of partnership, as it underscores the importance of accompanying one another on our faith journeys, sharing joys and burdens and encouraging and learning from one another.Continue reading
A letter from Myoung Ho Yang serving in Hong Kong
june 2015 - a sculpture's witness
It is becoming hotter and more humid here in Hong Kong. People say that we will experience real summer weather only in July and August. We will see how hot and humid it gets! We are waiting with curiosity since we haven’t experienced it yet. We hope we like it.Continue reading
A letter from Elisabeth Cook serving in Costa Rica
summer 2015 - interpretation assignment
“You left and I didn’t get a chance to say good-bye.” This was the subject line on my email to Beauvais after I realized he left Costa Rica for Haiti early that morning. I had been out of the office during his round of farewells the previous day and felt strangely bereft at not having had the chance to see him. The feeling surprised me. Students come and go all the time. It is hard not to get emotionally involved, and inevitably their time at UBL leaves its mark on our lives and hearts. Unlike most students who combine distance and residence studies, Beauvais was with us for more than four years. Being from Haiti, he could not leave and be ensured of a reentry visa. So he stayed. And finished two degrees. He is now back in Haiti, in his words “getting accustomed to life in Port au Prince again” and finding his place in the ministry of grassroots reading of the Bible in Catholic communities.Continue reading
A letter from Chenoa Stock serving in Bolivia
june 2015 - faith through the storm
He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:39-41)
Though we here in Bolivia have now entered the season of the chill of winter mornings and evenings, with its strong rays of sun throughout the day, and have passed our rainy season, no longer having to worry about facing the rains and storms, this Bible passage sits on my heart.Continue reading
A letter from Martha Sommers in the U.S., on interpretation assignment prior to a new assignment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
June 2015 - New Challenges
Dear Family and Friends,
Greetings. Great to be back with the PC(USA) as a mission co-worker after an extended leave of absence. Many of you know I had breast cancer last year. I needed to have a lumpectomy and radiation, and the recovery, especially from the fatigue, has been too gradual for my liking. The great news is that all I need now is mammography every six months. I just had a follow-up mammogram yesterday, which was normal! Very thankful for how so many of you were so good at praying, accompanying, and walking with me during this journey. Very thankful for the countless healthcare workers, researchers and research participants, and survivors who made my treatment and survival possible.
Sadly, there is a widening racial disparity in breast cancer mortality in the U.S.A., with African-American women suffering a 40 percent higher mortality for the same disease. During my leave in the U.S.A. I had the privilege to work with PCCWellness, which serves in the west side of Chicago and the near west suburbs. My duties included serving as one of the attending faculty on the Family Medicine Service at West Suburban Medical Center. While recovering and back at work, I especially remember a few African-American women patients suffering from more widespread breast cancer who had worse prognoses. I was grateful to be able to share with them my confidence in their surgeon and oncologist, as they were also my doctors. Thankfully, because of the Affordable Care Act, PCCWellness and other health centers are increasing access to screening and timely care in areas with health disparities.Continue reading
Thank You and Your Family for serving God by taking His word so far from Your Home.
God is doing his work and using us a tools in other nations.during my working here in Athens i observed that there are many oppertunities to share the Gospel massage with other those do not know Jesus and we can bring them to Jesus Christ.Please prayer for me that i'm a very littel to that God is using me here in Athens Greece. God bless you.